A new documentary titled Blackfish looks at the strange case of Tilikum, a 12,000-pound killer whale held in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando for several decades. According to director Gabriela Cowperthwaite - who co-wrote the film with Eli Despres - Tilikum has existed in dark water tanks and is responsible for killing several trainers.

According to the Los Angeles Times, SeaWorld purchased Tilikum from Victoria, Canada's faltering park in 1992, where the orca was one of three whales involved in the drowning of a trainer. In the film, it is suggested that Orlando claimed Tilikum would only be used for breeding purposes though went on to become a performing whale at the Florida site.

Essentially the debate here is simple: did the mammal's traumatic captivity lead the fatal attack on SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010?

In a statement to Reuters this week, SeaWorld accused 'Blackfish' of a painting "a distorted picture" of its facility, calling it "inaccurate and misleading" as well as exploting a "tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau's family, friends and colleagues."

Cowperthwaite remains steadfast in her assertion that the Brancheau accident was not the only one to arise from Tilikum's captivity. "I don't come from animal activism - I am a mother who took her kids to SeaWorld," she said, "I thought (the Brancheau) incident was a one-off. In my mind, I was going to make a larger philosophical film about human beings and our relationships with our animal counterparts."

Watch the Blackwater trailer:

'Blackfish' hits theaters in Los Angeles and New York on Friday July 19, 2013. UK audiences can catch the documentary on a limited run from July 26, 2013.

Last week, rocker Tommy Lee and PETA sent a letter to SeaWorld requesting that they stopped playing Motley Crue tracks during whale performances, calling it "noise torture."